Celebrating Native American Heritage Month with Farm to School

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Tuesday, February 2, 2021

"To be a human being is an honor, and we offer thanksgiving for all the gifts of life. Mother Earth, we thank you for giving us everything we need."  - Chief Jake Swamp, Giving Thanks


November is Native American Heritage Month, and the National Farm to School Network is celebrating innovative farm to school initiatives taking root in Native communities from coast to coast. From incorporating traditional foods like blue corn and buffalo into school meals, to learning about traditional plants and growing methods, farm to school in Native communities can be an approach for building food sovereignty and reinvigorating traditional foodways. In a show of support for Native communities and the reality of the Thanksgiving holiday, additional educational resources are also shared below in the comments.

1. Blog Series: Native Farm to School Champion Stories
To celebrate and recognize farm to school activities happening across Indian Country, National Farm to School Network has partnered with the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) to share a series of blogs profiling Native Farm to School Champions. These stories were organized and collected by IAC's Regional Technical Assistance Specialists, and top programs will be recognized for the farm to school leadership at the 2019 IAC Annual Meeting in December. IAC is NFSN's 2019 National Partner of the Year. Explore the Native Farm to School Champion profiles here.

2. Blog: Reflections from the Road: Conference on Native American Nutrition
Mackenize Martinez, IAC Partnership Communications Intern, shares her reflections on attending and presenting about farm to school at the Fourth Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition this past September. Read more here.

3. Blog: Food Sovereignty, Youth Empowerment & Farm to School
This blog is dedicated to celebrating November as Native American Heritage Month. In April 2019, at National Farm to School Network’s Annual Meeting in Tampa, FL, individuals from various tribal nations around the country participated in a panel discussion. The conversation below highlights thoughts shared on farm to school in Native communities, food sovereignty, and youth leadership. Panel participants representing NFSN's 2019 National Partner of the Year, Intertribal Agriculture Council, include Keir Johnson-Reyes, Shelbi Fitzpatrick, and Megan Forcia. The panel was moderated by Alena Paisano, NFSN Program Manager. A video of the full session is available here.

4. Resource: Illuminative Narrative Change Insights and Action Guide
This Insights and Action Guide provide distilled takeaways from the breakthrough research. Here you learn what narrative change is and how to deploy it with your messages. Breakthrough research is made accessible in this simple guide. Implement these user-friendly action tips to make a change in your community, organization, or company. Stand with Native peoples – amplify a new story and change the future! (Illuminative)

5. Article: Native American Heritage Month: Indigenous People Will Not be Erased
Despite this latest slight to Indian Country by the Trump Administration, Native and Indigenous movements for justice and visibility are mobilizing in unprecedented ways. Some may call the celebration of Native American Heritage Month merely a symbolic gesture, but symbols and the movements behind them matter. Read the powerful message voiced by co-authors Crystal Echo-Hawk and Nick Tilsen. (NDN Collective)

6. Article: What Does Thanksgiving Mean to Native Americans?
There are always two sides of a story. Unfortunately, when it comes to the history of Thanksgiving, generations of Americans have been taught a one-sided history in homes and schools. (Native Hope)

7. Resource: American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving
Each November educators across the country teach their students about the First Thanksgiving, a quintessentially American holiday. They try to give students an accurate picture of what happened in Plymouth in 1621 and explain how that event fits into American history. Unfortunately, many teaching materials give an incomplete, if not inaccurate, portrayal of the first Thanksgiving, particularly of the event’s Native American participants. This poster incorporates some fundamental concepts about Native cultures, which have too often been obscured by stereotypes and misconceptions. (National Museum of the American Indian)

8. Article: 3 Ways to Expand Native American Curriculum Beyond Thanksgiving Myths
Generalizations tied to the holiday don't paint the whole picture of the numerous cultures that were spread across the Americas. Children's and young adult author Cynthia Leitich Smith sees room for educators to push beyond their lessons a bit when it comes to teaching these topics, suggesting curriculum can be integrated throughout the school year — and across any discipline — with just a bit more sleuthing on the part of teachers and students alike. (Education Drive)

9. Article: Teaching Thanksgiving in a Socially Responsible Way
School Thanksgiving activities often mean dressing children in “Indian” headdresses and paper feathers or asking students to draw themselves as Native Americans from the past, complete with feather-adorned headbands and buckskin clothing. These activities might seem friendly and fun, unless you are aware of how damaging this imagery is to perceptions of contemporary Native peoples. This imagery contributes to the indoctrination of American youth into a false narrative that relegates Indigenous peoples to the past and turns real human beings into costumes for a few days a year. It’s not just bad pedagogy; it’s socially irresponsible. Teaching about Thanksgiving in a socially responsible way means that educators accept the ethical obligation to provide students with accurate information and to reject traditions that sustain harmful stereotypes about Indigenous peoples. Thankfully, there are excellent online resources that can help educators interested in disrupting the hegemonic Thanksgiving story. (Teaching Tolerance)

10. Resource: A Story of Survival: The Wampanoag and the English
This Thanksgiving Lesson plan booklet has emerged as a need expressed by our teachers to have something meaningful, tangible and easy to follow in their classrooms. The booklet also emerged because many parents were frustrated with their Native child coming home with make-shift feathers and inaccurate stories of Thanksgiving. This booklet provides a number of useful tools including quick facts for teachers to read to learn about the English and the Indigenous people of this land,  a list of “what not to do” in order to not offend or provide harmful and inaccurate images to ALL children, and lessons that are grade appropriate with photos to follow. (Oklahoma City Public Schools Native American Student Services)

11. Article: ‘I Was Teaching a Lot of Misconceptions.’ The Way American Kids Are Learning About the 'First Thanksgiving' Is Changing
On a recent Saturday morning in Washington, D.C., about two dozen secondary and elementary school teachers experienced a role reversal. This time, it was their turn to take a quiz: answer “true” or “false” for 14 statements about the famous meal known as the “First Thanksgiving.” (TIME)


Explore more resources for farm to school in Native communities on our website.

Native F2S Champions: Karuk Tribe

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Tuesday, February 2, 2021

By Keir Reyes-Johnson, Intertribal Agriculture Council, Pacific Region



Photo credit: Karuk Tribe

This blog is part of a series of profiles of Native Farm to School Champions, organized and collated by the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC). IAC is NFSN's 2019 National Partner of the Year, and we are excited to collaborate with IAC on this storytelling project to celebrate farm to school activities happening across Indian Country. These Champion profiles were written and submitted by IAC's Regional Technical Assistance Specialists, and these programs will be recognized for the farm to school leadership at the 2019 IAC Annual Meeting. Learn more about the IAC at www.indianag.org.


The Karuk Tribe is strongly committed to growing opportunities for Tribal and local youth to engage with their traditional food system. Lisa Hillman, the Director of the Píkyav Field Institute, has led a powerful effort to build integrative traditional and local foods curriculum into years of Farm 2 School (F2S) related initiatives. The Karuk Tribe initially received a F2S subaward in 2015 which enabled staff to hire Native food forager contractors who collected hundreds of pounds of acorns, grapes, huckleberries and more. The program organized field trips to foraging sites, conducted a baseline survey of traditional foods consumption at area schools, and built and implemented K-12 Native food system curriculum. Many schools throughout the Mid Klamath Region of California (Junction, Orleans, Happy Camp, and Forks of Salmon Elementary Schools, Yreka Tribal Headstart, and Happy Camp High School) partnered to implement this important programming.

In 2017, the Karuk Tribe received a $100,000 F2S grant to expand upon ongoing initiatives (developed under their initial sub-award) to further support their impressive traditional foodways educational initiatives. Under this grant, Lisa and her team were able to publish many articles and present findings and best practices at venues across the region and beyond. Continued emphasis was placed on honing and expanding K-12 curriculum as well. The true impact of the F2S based efforts over the years is immeasurable. Lisa and her team are cultivating meaningful change in their communities through food and nutrition-based curriculum that follows the unique practices of the Karuk people.

Lisa has been very impressed by the process of working with both F2S grants and has recently shared that the “Farm 2 School grants have been the best grants I have ever worked with.”

IAC has been a longstanding partner of the Karuk Tribe’s Department of Natural Resources (which houses the Píkyav Field Institute among other programs), sharing resources and assisting with identifying funding for youth-led initiatives, highlighting the Karuk Tribe’s impressive community-based programming nationally, advocating for the protection of Tribal sovereignty and ancestral territory management, and outreaching to Karuk youth to involve them in IAC Pacific Region Native Youth Food Sovereignty Summits in 2018 and 2019.


Learn more about the Karuk Tribe Farm to School Grant here: http://www.karuk.us/index.php/press.

Native F2S Champions: Hardin School District

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Tuesday, February 2, 2021

By Kole Fitzpatrick, Intertribal Agriculture Council, Rocky Mountain Region


Photo credit: Hardin School District

This blog is part of a series of profiles of Native Farm to School Champions, organized and collated by the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC). IAC is NFSN's 2019 National Partner of the Year, and we are excited to collaborate with IAC on this storytelling project to celebrate farm to school activities happening across Indian Country. These Champion profiles were written and submitted by IAC's Regional Technical Assistance Specialists, and these programs will be recognized for the farm to school leadership at the 2019 IAC Annual Meeting. Learn more about the IAC at www.indianag.org.

Hardin School District has had an enhanced focus on farm to school, specifically through community partnerships, increased access to healthy school meals, and expanded nutrition education. These farm to school initiatives have taken root through the funding and cooperation of our School Nutrition Department, under which the farm to school program functions. Our main focus has been connecting classroom, cafeteria, and community by growing relationships between students and the community to the land and food.

One of the most exciting ways of furthering this connection is the native orchard planted by students at Crow Agency Public School. At the end of the 2018 school year, students K-5 planted chokecherries, service berries, plums, currants, and elderberries, which was possible through a grant as part of National Farm to School Network’s Seed Change in Native Communities. Our goal in this native orchard project is to empower students in learning about traditional foods, preparation, storage, and ceremony. These plants will serve as a gathering place for classes, a community resource, and most importantly, a native food source for students K-5 to harvest, cook, and learn.

The variety of traditional berries and plums helps bring students together with elders and community leaders who can pass down and celebrate Crow traditions surrounding these foods. While waiting anxiously on the plants to establish and begin producing, students will continue hands-on cooking, gardening and nutrition lessons in their class. During this time, the farm to school coordinator will work with teachers from each grade level to create an orchard curriculum cookbook. Through this cookbook, teachers will be supported in incorporating the orchard into their classrooms, with lesson plans, community speakers, and recipes for each traditional plant. Each grade will be in charge of a different variety in the orchard, learning all about that variety, while looking forward to a new fruit each school year. For example, the fifth grade classes are in charge of the chokecherries, which community elders will be invited into the classroom to teach students how to make chokecherry jam. Fifth grade students will then harness their entrepreneurship skills by creating a label for the jam to be sold by students at the local farmers market throughout the year.

Nationwide, farm to school has been an integral part of supporting localization and promoting healthier food access. Although that may look different in each region, school, and community, our farm to school program has grown each year through community partnerships and hands-on educational opportunities to incorporate traditional foods. In our schools, our District Wellness Policy ensures that students k-12 are gaining a much more rounded approach to nutrition by incorporating nutrition education from gym class and extracurriculars to the cafeteria.

In the last four years, Hardin School Nutrition has also employed a FoodCorps member, who serves to create a positive school-wide culture of health, rooted in hands-on learning and healthy school meals. In this time, we have increased nutrition and garden education from 3 monthly classes to, on average, 30 bi-weekly lessons. Cooking, gardening, and tasting in the class allows students to grow their relationship with their food and the land it comes from. Expanding into the community, students throughout the district have had the opportunity to meet their farmer, take farm field trips, and harvest from the garden. Through this experiential learning, we hope to empower students in their food choices and commitment to community.


Learn more about Hardin School District here: http://www.hardin.k12.mt.us/

Food Sovereignty, Youth Empowerment & Farm to School

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Tuesday, February 2, 2021


Keir Johnson-Reyes, Megan Forcia, Shelbi Fitzpatrick and Alena Paisano at the NFSN Annual Meeting.

This blog is dedicated to celebrating November as Native American Heritage Month. In April 2019, at National Farm to School Network’s Annual Meeting in Tampa, FL, individuals from various tribal nations around the country participated in a panel discussion. The conversation below highlights thoughts shared on farm to school in Native communities, food sovereignty, and youth leadership. Panel participants representing NFSN's 2019 National Partner of the Year, Intertribal Agriculture Council, include Keir Johnson-Reyes, Shelbi Fitzpatrick, and Megan Forcia. The panel was moderated by Alena Paisano, NFSN Program Manager. A video of the full session is available here.

Alena: There is a robust movement for food sovereignty occurring in this nation in all communities - native, rural, and urban alike. The connection between food sovereignty and farm to school ties directly to youth. Empowered youth are helping lead the way in transforming our food systems back to the original, healthy food systems they were. Can you define in your own language what food sovereignty means to you?

Shelbi: The textbook definition states, “the right of peoples to culturally appropriate in healthy foods and the ability to create their own kinds of food systems.” For me, I think you need to dive in deeper into yourself and as a people to understand what food sovereignty means. It's a matter of looking at our environment and land in an objective versus subjective kind of way. Society looks at land and the environment in a subjective way and looks at what we can take without understanding relationships. To me, food sovereignty means strengthening those relationships between humans and nonhumans (the environment), which would better enhance our relationship to our food.

Megan: To me, food sovereignty is everything. It is from the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, our relationships, and our identities as who we are. By being able to witness the amazing work happening around food sovereignty, particularly that our youth are doing, I am able to catch my breath and re-find a center in the midsts of all the environmental, water, and climate crises. In the area of food sovereignty, we need to start looking at things in terms of a bigger picture and larger scope.

Alena: How do you see farm to school, large or small-scale, as a strategy for advancing food sovereignty in Native communities?

Keir: This is about planting seeds. Working with our young people is working with our communities. Allyship and stepping into uncomfortable situations to explore what you can bring to the table in an effort to co-develop solutions is critical in the process. It is important to understand that working with Native youth in our communities is sacred because they are the future of our people. We view things in different ways, so it is important to develop common languages in order to be able to work together innovatively as we each step forward in this space. That is one of the reasons I am so grateful for the partnership here.  

Shelbi: Food sovereignty is a political action for indigenous peoples. For an organization like NFSN to recognize the sovereignty of indigenous people is huge, especially the political credibility and support that accompanies it. It is amazing in itself that we have a seat at this table and taking part in collaborative actions and sharing common languages is a way to advance in the area of food sovereignty. One example that stuck out to me was partnering schools with elders in the community to work with the garden. Those are two groups that rely on each other for knowledge sharing and bringing each other life in terms of community building. It is something that seems realistic in my home community.

Megan: It is important to give power back to communities in a way that enables them to have a voice in their own food systems. It is important to understand that we are talking about the type of sovereignty that is nation to nation and government to government. From my understanding, a lot of your farm to school work is heavily reliant upon policy and making sure that support for the work that is laid out within said policy. It is important to remember that for a long time, Native voices have been absent from the conversations surrounding the policies being made. Nationally, in the realms of agriculture, like with the Native Farm Bill Coalition, there has been success in creating a unified voice for Indian Country in that space. There is a need for voices to be heard on the state and local level. Opportunities to speak out are often missed due to a lack of understanding towards the meaning of sovereignty. I hope that the things we are discussing right now opens your eyes in a way that helps you to return home and have those conversations with your community in an effort to advance food sovereignty.

Alena: In working with IAC, I have seen the fully funded and supported investment they are making in youth programming and the importance that is being placed on their youth. In my culture and traditions, we acknowledge that everything lies within our youth. They have the potential to carry on all the work we have done and all the sacrifices that our ancestors made so that we are able to sit here today. Why is youth leadership important in the farm to school/food sovereignty movement?

Keir: The average age of farmers and ranchers continues to increase from the current 59 years old. Engaging with youth in communities and making sure youth voices are present in the decisions being made about them are important. It is critical to support the localization of responses to issues that are present. Local, traditional food that ties us to our ancestors and to who we are is about ingesting healing. Food is the connection point for all the things that come together and promote wellness within communities. Engaging with youth in communities is not something that should be an afterthought. It is should be at the forefront of everything that we do. IAC has provided a modeling of what youth leadership can look like, and my hope is that others will take charge.

Shelbi: Allowing youth to be involved in these conversations at an earlier age inspires them to get involved earlier. Native Youth Food Sovereignty Alliance youth are so involved and invested in the conversations surrounding food sovereignty. When the time comes, we are prepared to step into leadership roles and start putting into action all the things we have been talking about. There is a lot to be said about the traditional knowledge of agricultural issues that is passed down from elders to youth. While it is important to go forward, you must also look back and reflect to see what has changed.

Megan: Instilling a sense of hope and empowerment in youth will help them cope with all of the negative feelings and stress surrounding the issues they are faced with, such as climate change. The health of our youth, both mentally and physically, directly translates into the health of our nation. Empowering youth with realistic support, not theoretical talk, gives them a sense of hope that will carry them through all of the difficulties that our communities are facing. We need to look at youth empowerment as the rebuilding of our nations with them as as the foundation of a stronger, healthier future.

Alena: Something I learned while attending a conference is that just when you feel you have mastered something, it is then time to take that knowledge and teach it to someone else. These youth that are involved are ready to take that on - we just have to give them a platform to do so.

This conversation was transcribed by Mackenize Martinez, Partnership Communications Intern.


Native F2S Champions: Miami Public Schools / Modoc Nation of Oklahoma

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Tuesday, February 2, 2021



This blog is part of a series of profiles of Native Farm to School Champions, organized and collated by the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC). IAC is NFSN's 2019 National Partner of the Year, and we are excited to collaborate with IAC on this storytelling project to celebrate farm to school activities happening across Indian Country. These Champion profiles were written and submitted by IAC's Regional Technical Assistance Specialists, and these programs will be recognized for the farm to school leadership at the 2019 IAC Annual Meeting. Learn more about the IAC at www.indianag.org.
 
Miami Public Schools and the Modoc Nation of Oklahoma have been awarded a USDA Farm to School Grant as of July 2019. IAC staff interviewed Modoc Bison Ranch and community development staff of the Modoc Nation in late September. The Modoc tribe are originally from homelands in Oregon and are eager to build a historical and cultural awareness of nutritious foods for their school community. This tribal nation farm operation has their own herd of bison, which they acquired through the National Park Service. The USDA award is an implementation grant. The Eastern OK region has taken strides in value-added agricultural production and are invested in educating their youth where their food comes from and how it makes its way to the table. Program grants are designed to increase the amount of healthy, local foods served in schools and create economic opportunities for nearby farmers. The bison products are currently sold through the Modoc Nation Administrative office and offers bison products such as jerky, summer sausage, bison steaks, roast, and bison liver at a fair and competitive price point.

“We are excited about the opportunity that presents itself here,” said Miami Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Hogan. “We’re still in the infancy stages trying to figure out how it’s all going to work and how to best implement it.” IAC TA spoke with Annette Clark, Director of Education and Culture for the Modoc Nation after she had returned from a Farm to School Grantee meeting in Louisiana. Annette was excited to share that the Public Schools and the Modoc Nation will sponsor a taste of Bison sample in collaboration with the National Bison Day, held on November 2, 2019.


Chief Bill Follis expressed that tribal nations in Oklahoma contribute significantly to the school communities and local economies. This partnership is an example of a community working collaboratively to share Indian agriculture successes with youth and cafeteria staff. When the cafeteria staff feels empowered with helpful knowledge and resources, the meal just tastes that much better for the kids. Intertribal Agriculture Council supports Modoc Nation in their Farm to School efforts.

Learn more about Miami Public Schools here: http://miami.k12.ok.us/
Learn more about Modoc National of Oklahoma here: https://modocnation.com/


Native F2S Champions: Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation Food Sovereignty Initiative

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Tuesday, February 2, 2021

By Tomie Peterson, Intertribal Agriculture Council, Great Plains Region


Photo Credit: Thunder Valley Community Development Corporations’ Food Sovereignty Initiative

This blog is part of a series of profiles of Native Farm to School Champions, organized and collated by the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC). IAC is NFSN's 2019 National Partner of the Year, and we are excited to collaborate with IAC on this storytelling project to celebrate farm to school activities happening across Indian Country. These Champion profiles were written and submitted by IAC's Regional Technical Assistance Specialists, and these programs will be recognized for the farm to school leadership at the 2019 IAC Annual Meeting. Learn more about the IAC at www.indianag.org.

The goal of Thunder Valley Community Development Corporations’ Food Sovereignty Initiative is to create programs and partnerships that will promote a sustainable and viable food system on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

The Food Sovereignty Coalition has five active members of community partner organizations that are working together to create a local food system. A part of this is trying to implement traditional foods into more of the communities. The coalition successfully introduced buffalo meat from Intertribal Buffalo Council into the nine Head Start Centers across the reservation.

They also completed a food sovereignty curriculum that was implemented in local classrooms. It focused on older elementary students, with topics including Oglala food histories, current local foods, nutrition, gardening, safe food handling, and food preservation.

IAC Great Plains Technical Assistant recognizes the great strides that Thunder Valley’s Lakota Food Sovereignty has made and is a strong partner by providing any assistance needed to continue their goal of food sovereignty on the Pine Ridge Reservation.


Learn more about Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation Food Sovereignty Initiative here: https://thundervalley.org/live-rez/our-programs/food.

Native F2S Champions: Indian Township School

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Tuesday, February 2, 2021


Photo Credit: Indian Township School

This blog is part of a series of profiles of Native Farm to School Champions, organized and collated by the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC). IAC is NFSN's 2019 National Partner of the Year, and we are excited to collaborate with IAC on this storytelling project to celebrate farm to school activities happening across Indian Country. These Champion profiles were written and submitted by IAC's Regional Technical Assistance Specialists, and these programs will be recognized for the farm to school leadership at the 2019 IAC Annual Meeting. Learn more about the IAC at www.indianag.org.

Indian Township School sits along the shores of Long Lake in Northern Maine in the small, tight-knit community of the Passamaquoddy Indian Township Reservation. The school enrollment fluctuates depending on the hunting and fishing seasons, between 125 and 145 students in Pre-K to 8th grade. Their farm to school program started three years ago when the School Librarian, Donna Meader-York, approached the Special Education Teacher in Junior High, Brian Giles, to revive the defunct greenhouse on the school grounds and expand the small garden. Teaming up together, Donna and Brian flexed their resourcefulness muscle and reached out to several organizations, including the National Farm to School Network (NFSN).

Brian attended the very next NFSN Conference where he was especially inspired by a presentation from Intertribal Agriculture Council’s Youth Programs Coordinator, Kelsey Ducheneaux. Brian saw clearly the connection between the issues faced in Native American communities, including Indian Township, and the opportunity to address those issues by empowering the youth to grow and cook their traditional foods. “I realized we’re all fighting the same fight and I felt even more invigorated to help overcome those difficulties,” said Brian, and his commitment soon paid off. Indian Township School received the Seed Change in Native Communities mini-grant and got to work bringing the greenhouse back into working order and building raised beds to increase the garden. They also started Passamaquoddy O.G.’s (Original Gardeners) club to bring a cool factor to the youth participating.

Today the Indian Township School features a functional greenhouse, raised-bed garden, a wild rice pond, and a fruit and nut orchard planted by the students through partnership with ReTreeUS. The school has partnered with the food pantry, offering space in the greenhouse to start seedlings that grow to provide food for dozens of families throughout the harvest season. Students in the afterschool program help to plant the seedlings in the spring and return in the fall to gather and prepare the harvest in cooking classes. They also embark on foraging field trips for chokecherries and return to the school to preserve them into traditional dried leather. In their time spent together, the staff help youth focus on the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of health.

When the school opens the doors for community feasts, produce from the garden is served alongside harvested berries, moose and venison for all to enjoy. Families file past the signage in the cafeteria featuring Passamaquoddy and English to share a traditional meal together. These community feasts are just one aspect of their success though – Brian and Donna also created a more secure and culturally-relevant food system, set an example of partnership to achieve their goals, and most importantly, empowered the next generation.

Learn more about Indian Township School here: http://www.indiantownshipschool.org/

Native F2S Champions: Indian Township School

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Tuesday, February 2, 2021

By Lea Zeise, Intertribal Agriculture Council, Eastern Region


Photo Credit: Indian Township School

This blog is part of a series of profiles of Native Farm to School Champions, organized and collated by the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC). IAC is NFSN's 2019 National Partner of the Year, and we are excited to collaborate with IAC on this storytelling project to celebrate farm to school activities happening across Indian Country. These Champion profiles were written and submitted by IAC's Regional Technical Assistance Specialists, and these programs will be recognized for the farm to school leadership at the 2019 IAC Annual Meeting. Learn more about the IAC at www.indianag.org.

Indian Township School sits along the shores of Long Lake in Northern Maine in the small, tight-knit community of the Passamaquoddy Indian Township Reservation. The school enrollment fluctuates depending on the hunting and fishing seasons, between 125 and 145 students in Pre-K to 8th grade. Their farm to school program started three years ago when the School Librarian, Donna Meader-York, approached the Special Education Teacher in Junior High, Brian Giles, to revive the defunct greenhouse on the school grounds and expand the small garden. Teaming up together, Donna and Brian flexed their resourcefulness muscle and reached out to several organizations, including the National Farm to School Network (NFSN).

Brian attended the very next NFSN Conference where he was especially inspired by a presentation from Intertribal Agriculture Council’s Youth Programs Coordinator, Kelsey Ducheneaux. Brian saw clearly the connection between the issues faced in Native American communities, including Indian Township, and the opportunity to address those issues by empowering the youth to grow and cook their traditional foods. “I realized we’re all fighting the same fight and I felt even more invigorated to help overcome those difficulties,” said Brian, and his commitment soon paid off. Indian Township School received the Seed Change in Native Communities mini-grant and got to work bringing the greenhouse back into working order and building raised beds to increase the garden. They also started Passamaquoddy O.G.’s (Original Gardeners) club to bring a cool factor to the youth participating.

Today the Indian Township School features a functional greenhouse, raised-bed garden, a wild rice pond, and a fruit and nut orchard planted by the students through partnership with ReTreeUS. The school has partnered with the food pantry, offering space in the greenhouse to start seedlings that grow to provide food for dozens of families throughout the harvest season. Students in the afterschool program help to plant the seedlings in the spring and return in the fall to gather and prepare the harvest in cooking classes. They also embark on foraging field trips for chokecherries and return to the school to preserve them into traditional dried leather. In their time spent together, the staff help youth focus on the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of health.

When the school opens the doors for community feasts, produce from the garden is served alongside harvested berries, moose and venison for all to enjoy. Families file past the signage in the cafeteria featuring Passamaquoddy and English to share a traditional meal together. These community feasts are just one aspect of their success though – Brian and Donna also created a more secure and culturally-relevant food system, set an example of partnership to achieve their goals, and most importantly, empowered the next generation.

Learn more about Indian Township School here: http://www.indiantownshipschool.org/


The First 10 Months of 2019: A Farm to School Policy Perspective

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Tuesday, February 2, 2021


By Chloe Marshall, Policy Specialist

Ten months in, 2019 has been full of exciting farm to school policy wins, challenges, and opportunities. Now that we’ve gone through another successful National Farm to School Month and have begun to look towards 2020, I want to pause, reflect and celebrate what we’ve accomplished so far this year, together.

In early 2019, while catching our breath from the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, we were jolted back into action by Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R-KS) February announcement of his desire to write a child nutrition reauthorization (CNR). Advocates around the country, including us at the National Farm to School Network, quickly became ready to gear up for another journey towards a new CNR. Child nutrition bills have not been reauthorized (government speak for rewriting a package of bills) since 2010, when sweeping changes were made to school meals, including new comprehensive nutrition standards, adoption of the Community Eligibility Provision, and - a gold star on our list - the beginning of the USDA Farm to School Grant Program.

Since February, we’ve made major strides and had some big wins in advocating for strong farm to school priorities in the next CNR:

  • We hosted a series of listening sessions to hear from farm to school advocates about how CNR can better support their efforts.
  • In partnership with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, we championed the introduction of two signature bills - the Farm to School Act of 2019 and the Kids Eat Local Act - that directly address the feedback and needs we’ve heard from farm to school stakeholders. As of today, the Farm to School Act has 17 cosponsors and the Kids Eat Local Act has 22 cosponsors. Both bills have strong bipartisan support, a beautiful example of how our advocacy can push Congress to work together for good.
  • In September, we hosted three farm to school advocates on Capitol Hill to educate lawmakers from Arkansas and Kansas about the importance of farm to school. Our fly-in was made possible with the generous support of the Johnson Family Foundation - thank you!
  • We have deepened relationships with national partners including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and Food Corps, both of whom have led advocacy efforts alongside us and offered tremendous support. Additional thanks goes out to original endorsers of our farm to school bills, including American Heart Association, Union of Concerned Scientists, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Food Corps, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Education Association, and the National Farmers Union.
  • Our online petitions in support of our two bills have gathered more than 800 signatures from individuals and organizations. You can still sign on!
  • And, the US Senate passed a resolution declaring October 2019 National Farm to School Month! The US House did this in 2010, and we love bicameral support for a great cause!

Can you believe we accomplished all that in less than ten months? If you haven’t thanked yourself for the hard work you’ve done, do it right now. Then turn to your neighbor (or your social media friends) and repeat after me: “Thank you for moving the movement.” Farm to school has worked because of YOUR work, and we thank you.

Will you help us take it even further? The future of farm to school is in our hands, and everyday is an opportunity to transform our food system. While we wait to see a draft CNR bill, there’s work that can still be done:

  • Add your name and/or your organization to our letters to Congress, then share with a friend (or many friends).
  • Share your farm to school work on social media and tag us - @farmtoschool / #farmtoschool - and your members of Congress. Ask them to support the Farm to School Act and Kids Eat Local Act.
  • Reach out to your members of Congress to urge their support for our bills (lobbying) or simply educate them on the state of farm to school in your community (not lobbying).

Beyond CNR, there are many other opportunities to advocate for policy that advances farm to school that we’ve been working on at the National Farm to School Network. In 2019, we’ve been: centering equity in our policy advocacy; establishing an official policy platform; supporting the implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill; building new federal agency relationships; sharing our new State Farm to School Policy Handbook: 2002-2018 (co-authored by the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School); digging deeper into state and local policy opportunities; and, working to become a more active voice in organizing for food justice.

The heart of our work at the National Farm to School Network is not policy or programs, it’s people - kids, farmers, communities, and everyone in between. What policy matters matter to you, and how can the National Farm to School Network support your interests? I want to know! Connect with me anytime at chloe@farmtoschool.org. The power of our network is in partners like you who are working for change. As we continue to organize and advocate for strong policy, let’s remember that we’re ultimately advocating for ourselves, for each other, for our children, and for our futures. Onward and upward, together!

Senate Adopts National Farm to School Month Resolution

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Tuesday, February 2, 2021

On October 31, the Senate unanimously adopted a resolution (S. Res 403) – sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and David Perdue (R-GA) – designating October 2019 as “National Farm to School Month.” The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and National Farm to School Network (NFSN) jointly praised the effort to highlight the important relationship between farmers, schools, and our nation’s children. The organizations, which work closely together to advance federal policies that further farm to school connections and the socioeconomic benefits that those relationships confer, also underscored the opportunity for Senators to further support these efforts by including the Farm to School Act of 2019 (S. 2026) and the Kids Eat Local Act (S. 1817) in the next Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization (CNR).

“The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition welcomes this strong showing of support from the Senate for national farm to school efforts,” said Wes King, Senior Policy Specialist at NSAC. “Farm to school partnerships are important opportunities for our youth to learn about food, agriculture, and how to respect and care for the land. That’s not where the benefits stop, however. Farm to school programs also allow our nation’s family farmers – many of whom are struggling due to lagging markets and unstable trade partnerships – to form lucrative business relationships with schools and school districts. These relationships are a win-win-win, providing crucial business opportunities to family farmers, fresh foods to public schools, and healthy meals and hands-on educational opportunities for students. We hope that this resolution signals that Senators are also ready and willing to support the Kids Eat Local Act in the upcoming CNR. The Act was introduced with bipartisan support earlier this year, and would help make it easier for schools to source healthy food from local farmers, ranchers and fishermen.”

“Farm to school activities - including kids eating, growing, and learning about local and just food - happen 365 days a year across more than 42,000 schools. “National Farm to School Month” is a well-deserved time to celebrate the successes of these efforts and to raise awareness of the opportunity and need for more,” said Chloe Marshall, Policy Specialist at the National Farm to School Network. “We applaud the Senate for recognizing the positive impacts that farm to school has in improving child nutrition, supporting family farmers and local economies, and building vibrant, more equitable communities. We urge the Senate to continue to invest in the well being of our nation’s kids, farmers, and communities in the next CNR by strengthening the USDA Farm to School Grant Program with the Farm to School Act of 2019, which was introduced with bipartisan support earlier this year. In addition, we also urge support for child nutrition programs that ensure every child has sufficient access to nutritious meals, including expansion of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) and maintaining strong nutrition standards within these programs.”

Learn more about our farm to school priorities for the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization here.

National Farm to School Network and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition are partnering to advance farm to school priorities in the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization, with the shared goal of supporting stronger communities, healthier children and resilient farms.